Monday, June 29, 2009

Agent Orange: Part Four (DC)
Where: Green Lantern #42 When: August 2009
Why: Geoff Johns How: Philip Tan & Eddy Barrows

Strength: Draw 2 (Average)
Intelligence: Green Lantern 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 2 (Average)
Stamina: Larfleeze 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Green Lantern 4 (Trained)
Energy: Larfleeze 7 (Cosmic)

Math: Green Lantern
Ranking: Green Lantern (#29)

The past few years have seen the Green Lantern go from strength to strength, beginning with
Rebirth, and reaching it's epitomy with a company-wide crossover event -- Blackest Night. It's been under the loving direction of writer Geoff Johns that the series has hop, skipped, and jumped it's way from obscurity, to a most improved title, to a firmly established A-list franchise for DC comics.

As the figurehead of the reinvention,
Hal Jordan has been restored as one of the most popular and significant superheroes in comics. Despite this boost, the hero has been suspiciously absent from the 2009 Infinite Wars action! Toady, we set about to finally correct that disappointing -- and inadvertent -- oversight.

Those of you new to the site might appreciate a clarification: "Secret Wars on Infinite Earths" not only refers to the two definitive comics crossovers of the mid-eighties, but also the endless battles undertaken by characters from different companies, mediums, and internal universes. It is a literal description of the "fight league" high concept that provides a foundation for review, observation, discussion, and silly win/loss ranking lists based on featured fights.

Key to the momentum of the Green Lantern titles throughout 2008, and the first half of 2009, has been the development of an entire spectrum of rival ring wielding Corps who derive their powers from the cosmic emotional totem. This spectrum was first teased at the conclusion of the Sinestro Corps War, where the Green Lanterns successfully fended off the fear-wielding fright of the Yellow Sinestro Corps.

This tease also introduced the prospect of the Black Lanterns -- undead warriors to rise from the defeated corpse of the once feared
Anti-Monitor. We now know they are the risen dead from across the galaxy, fated to snuff the light of the other Corps and return the universe to darkness.

The Corps represent the colour-coded powers of: Green (Will), Blue (Hope), Indigo (Compassion), Violet (Love), Red (Rage), Orange (Avarice), Yellow (Fear), Black (Death).

Agent Orange is the storyarc responsible for introducing Larfleeze, the sole possessor of the Orange power battery of avarice. It's the last major storyline to establish other powers from the emotional spectrum before the Blackest Night officially launches with an eight issue mini-series, and issues of Green Lantern,
Green Lantern Corps and other.

I think it's fair to say, after waiting a year and a half since the
Green Lantern #25 teaser, everyone's getting just a little antsy for the main event. I would speculate even Geoff Johns himself has gotten a little sick of the build-up, abbreviating his introduction of the various Corps as he rushes to establish vital new mythology in the DC universe before Blackest Night finally kicks off.

Things feel rushed and a little on the sloppy side as we get the lowdown on not only the existance of Larfleeze and the Orange Light, but also other maneuvering parts of the Blackest Night set-up process. Of the two books, GLC has been able to juggle multiple storylines with much more fluidity than the master title -- a bold compliment for Johns' writing counterpart/collaborator,
Peter Tomasi.

In introducing the spectrum of colours, Johns has also presented the prospect of mixing the pallette of powers to create new results. [Hal] Jordan has come to possess yellow, red, and blue powers, with Agent Orange giving him reason to want to take Larfleeze's power enough to add orange to the tally, as well.

Typically Red Lanterns are mindlessly raging beasts who vomit their power, but when Jordan added the red to his green, he was able to form constructs through the combination of rage and willpower. It's an interesting metaphysical translation of how real emotions can be utilized to different ends, this being an example of a constructive use of anger. Similarly realised was the addition of a blue ring of hope, which super-charges the Green Lantern power, and is likewise rendered incapable of offensive without the compliment of willpower.

These distinctions have prevented the spectrum of Lantern Corps devolving into a pointless exchange of arbitrary colour fights. It's also presented a possible solution to the upcoming rise of Black Lanterns, assuming the powers of coloured light could be combined to create white light (capable of ending the dark).

Larfleeze, the possessor of the orange light of avarice, has a natural greed about him that's greatly enhanced by the orange light, which compells him to horde his power and seek other. The grander mythology of Larfleeze reveals that his Corps is actually constructs based upon the lives he has stolen, rather than allies who share his philosophy. Like greed itself, he is an ancient creature who has had dealings with the
Guardians of the Galaxy prior, leading to the no-fly zone of Sector 2828 that began the story.

The previous issue ended with Larfleeze chopping Jordan's hand off to get a hold of his Blue ring. This would've been a fitting pageturning moment of shock mid-issue, but instead, served as an entirely hollow cliffhanger ending to the last issue. I would speculate that it was an out-of-character ending for Johns who's simply running out of space before Blackest Night must begin.

The twist? The Blue ring projected an illusion of Larfleeze's hopes, distracting him with a curtain of indulgence! He didn't chop the hand off and take possession of the blue ring -- it was just a dream! Wuh-wuh. A bit of a cop-out in the world of writing, but it set us up for battle-proper in this issue!

Super-charged by the blue ring, Jordan creates his own Corps of constructs of other Green Lanterns and familiar characters. An attack that offends Larfleeze's sense of intellectual property, rather than any fear. It's an effective consistency in the characterization of the Orange light, but also infers just how powerful Larfleeze is as the sole proprietor of the orange power battery.

Agent Orange smacks Jordan in the head with his power battery -- a move that puts it in proximity to be stolen away by the Green Lantern!

Jordan is quickly swathed in thoughts of greed as he powers up with the orange light. It's a further glimpse into the hunger the power incurs, which is quickly taken back by it's owner for centuries.

The Guardians and several Green Lanterns arrive to aid Jordan as Larfleeze charges up to 7839% power levels and reimagines himself as a giant energy construct! He single-handedly resists the offensive of the Green Lantern Corps, living up to the claim of the Guardians that the orange light of avarice cannot be extinguished. The untenable situation finally allows Hal Jordan to invest in the power of hope and unlock the offensive capabilities of the blue ring.

With a mighty thrust of the blue ring, hope gives Jordan the power to deliver a knock-out blow to the Larfleeze energy construct. Though it does not destroy Larfleeze himself, it is sufficient an attack to curb his warpath and grant the Guardians the opportunity to enter into negotiations with the exiled beast.

Resetting the game just before Blackest Night is the departure of the Blue ring upon the expulsion of it's power and defeat of Larfleeze. The ring does, however, leave one lasting mark in the form of a now trademark Geoff Johns flashforward!

Infinite Wars stat hounds should note the assist from: John Stewart, El'Qa Squa Zreenah, Barreer Wot, Stel, Venizz, Lok Neboora, Turytt, and Torquemada.

The issue closes with the promise of a clash between Larfleeze and the Blue Lantern Corps (who were sold out by the Guardians), and the first Black Lantern to rise as Green Lanterns, Saarek and Ash, arrive at the Black Lantern central battery (and final resting place of Anti-Monitor) teased at the end of 2007.

We're running months behind schedule, so I'll wrap this up here. I'm interpreting the successful offensive of Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) as a victory blow sufficient enough to constitute the defeat of Larfleeze. [Corpsman assists listed above.]

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 5
Winner: Green Lantern

Green Lantern is currently available monthly from DC Comics. Blackest Night is the storyline developing for two years and is both an eight-issue DC Universe mini-series and event effecting multiple series in the DC line-up including GL and Green Lantern Corps! Blackest Night officially begins in July! While you wait, you can find more Green Lantern battles in the Secret Archives, and purchase collected editions via links in individual posts, and in the Online Gift Shoppe. By using purchase links provided, you help sponsor future entries in the site!

Hero of the Week #5: Green Lantern

Real Name: Hal Jordan
First Appearance: Showcase #22 (October, 1959)
Group Affiliation: Green Lantern Corps, Justice League
Gaming Credentials: Justice League Heroes (2006); Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe (2008); DC Universe Online (TBA)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #28

Theoretically, each H.O.T.W should be inspired by something happening concurrently within the superhero consciousness. So far that's included video games, starring films, and comic book events, and this week isn't really any different, aside from the fact that this topic has been of relevence for two years!

Like previous entrant, the Flash; Green Lantern underwent a "rebirth" that brought the character back not only from death (as the human host of The Spectre), but also from disgrace.
It was during the mid-nineties that Hal Jordan was seduced by a revenge that was not entirely his own, eventually revealed to be the opportunity upon which an ancient entity of fear was able to launch his revenge. For centuries Parallax had been contained in bondage within the central battery from which all Green Lanterns derive their power, known to them only as "the yellow impurity."

Parallax is not the only avatar to be born of the emotional spectrum. The Guardians created the Green Lantern rings from the power of will, while other energies tapped to various extents include; blue (hope), indigo (compassion), violet (love), yellow (fear), orange (avarice), and red (rage). Each unique facet has the power to embue an individual with the power granted by their corresponding emotion.

Over the past two years, ring baring Corps have formed around all of these other spectrums of light under the guidance of prolific writer, Geoff Johns. Working from a vague blueprint prophecized in stories written by comics legend Alan Moore, he has steered the Green Lantern franchise to unlikely success based upon this simple premise of adapting the light spectrum to mean as much as it has to the original Silver Age Green Lantern(s).
From these stories, a War of Light has broken out amongst the conflicting factions. It began with the "Sinestro Corps War" that pitted the yellow power of fear against the green, but has spiralled out of control as leaders from each colour have been created or uncovered. Their struggle is the ultimate distraction as the greatest threat to the universe quietly stirs beneath their very feet. A Black Lantern Corps is about to rise, spreading chaos across the universe as the dead rise!

Blackest Night has been building for two years and will officially begin in July!
Though oblivious like all others to the creation of this army of the dead, Hal Jordan has clearly emerged as the hero who will lead the fight against the Blackest Night. Over the past year he has briefly possessed rings of Green, Blue, Red, Yellow, and Orange -- a truly unique feat that alludes to a white light that might just combat the overwhelming darkness!

IGN have launched a mini-site to cover the epic universe-spanning events of Blackest Night, but that isn't the only point of relevance for gamers interested in the Green Lantern!

The recent popularity of Green Lantern in comics has seen the iconic Silver Age icon return to prominance briefly taken up by GL replacement and cartoon Lantern, John Stewart.
Jordan has been representing the heroes front and centre in promotion for the immersive online MMO, DC Universe Online, which promoses players the opportunity to fly alongside he and other members of the Green Lantern Corps, including Stewart. DCU Online follows the first substantial appearance of Hal Jordan in a video game as one of the playable DC heroes in the modest eleven character roster in,  Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe!

Green Lantern and Blackest Night issues are appearing monthly starting with July 1st!
You'll find all the necessary information to keep up and select series of interest on the IGN website, the DCU Source Blog, DC, and of course, most prominent comics sites (ie; Newsarama).
The event promises to bring back some heavy hitting heroes and villains who've died over the past few years, including prominent Black Lantern versions of Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, and Superman from a doomed parallel Earth! Whoooo! Super-Zombies! [For speculation, perspective, and spoilers, check out the Infinite Wars: Blackest Night post!]

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: The Comic Book Fight Club is updated with varying consistency, promising a feature fight for every Friday on the calendar (even if sometimes they're late). The site acts as an information resource, discussion site, review blog, and a cosmic good time.

<< Hero of the Week 07/06: Punisher       [Home]       Hero of the Week 06/22: Captain America >>

Originally posted:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

For the past few months, DC's Green Lantern titles have featured events deemed the Prelude to the Blackest Night. In truth, we've been experiencing build-up to the event since first learning of the eventual Blackest Night way back at the end of 2007, upon the conclusion of the Sinestro Corps War.

Here on the Infinite Wars we determined the event kinda began with the rising of Scar on Oa in Green Lantern Corps #37, but Blackest Night officially begins in the coming weeks of July! To prepare you for the coming darkness, this special Cover to Cover reveals some of the storylines that will have repercussions as the dead rise and the DC Universe is confronted with the skeletons in every hero and villain's closet!

In October last year, the Infinite Wars speculated what might be in store when Blackest Night finally arrived. Updates include new information and speculation, and can be found right here. Future entries in the Infinite Wars will confirm or deny all predictions and map the spread of darkness as the dead rise!

Green Lantern: Rebirth #1 (December 2004)
"Blackest Night" Johns/Van Sciver

When the space-villain Mongul would attempt to capitalize on the apparent death of Earth's Superman by joining forces with the villainous Cyborg-Superman; the ever-courageous Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, would be there to confront them.

Though Jordan would win the battle and save Earth from a fate of decimation, his home of Coast City and all it's citizens would be obliterated. Thus would begin the legendary fall from grace of one of the greatest Green Lantern's in the Corps history. It would begin with an attempt to resurrect the city with his ring, and end with the destruction of Oa and the entire Corps as he becomes -- Parallax!

Jordan would eventually die in a final act of nobility, using the power he amassed as Parallax to reignite the Earth's depleted sun. This act of redemption would be recognised in the after-life, seeing Jordan become the new human-host of the spirit of vengeance, the Spectre. As the Spectre Jordan would attempt to use his powers for redemption, but he deals with forces beyond his control...

Green Lantern #25 (January 2008)
"Birth of the Black Lantern" Johns/Reis

The Anti-Monitor - a creature of immense power that once sought to destroy the multiverse - joins Sinestro in creating a new Corps of agents, with the intent to use them as heralds of his conquest over the positive realm. Harnessing the yellow power rings of Qward, the Sinestro Corps operate on a design of fear, using it to control their yellow energy the same way the Lanterns us willpower.

Tricked into believing the Sinestro Corps were to attack Oa, the designates of Sector 2814 soon find themselves four against an army, as the Anti-Monitor and his heralds emerge in the Milky Way. They launch their attack on Earth, but the rest of the Green Lanterns, along with heroes native to the planet, soon join the war. The Justice League, Justice Society, Titans, and more, rally to join the Green Lantern Corps in a stand against a force determined to seek the destruction of all.

Final Crisis: Requiem #1 (September 2008)
"Caretakers of Mars" Tomasi/Mahnke

When an abusive childhood ended with his father's accidental death, Justin Ballantine accepted the value of balance in all things across the universe.
His cosmic philosophy, and aspirations of godhood, would lead him to accept employment as an adult to form a group called the Injustice Gang, and attempt to construct a weapon based upon the cosmic rod of Ted Knight.

His resulting "Transmortifier" proved capable of stealing a portion of energy from it's target, making a valuable weapon when turned against the superhuman might of the Justice League. As Libra, Ballantine received the powers of the combined JLA, before turning his weapon on the cosmos itself. The resulting influx of power seemingly destroyed his physical form, but Libra was reconceived on the planet Apokolips by his mystery benefactor, Glorious Godfrey.

As a prophet of Darkseid; Libra returned to Earth after the Death of the New Gods, promising to lead evil to salvation if The Society would entrust in him their leadership. Requiring the organized hordes for his own malicious ends, Libra set about bringing doom to the Earth as part of Darkseid's plot to create the Fifth World upon his resurrection as man. To distract the Society from the detail of his goals, he offers an act of good faith to one of their lowliest number. Thus, at the request of the Human Flame, Libra promises the death of Martian Manhunter...

Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy #1 (March 2009)
"The Curse!" Johns/Kolins

Solomon Grundy... Born on a Monday...

The chalk-skinned behemoth that rose from Slaughter Swamp is a creature of many lives. His existence, as if a curse, sees him rise forevermore, no matter how often he might be slain by the well meaning, or evil, of this world. Stories say he was once Cyrus Gold - a wealthy man of few scruples who lived in Gotham in the eighteen hundreds.

One fateful night, Cyrus Gold's sins came back to bite him, leaving him sinking in the bog of Slaughter Swamp with a knife buried in his heart. There he was said to have sunk, becoming one with the marsh, only to rise again decades later as Solomon Grundy -- the lumbering beast who battled Green Lantern!

Something changed, however. Something brought Cyrus back.
Though he tries desperately to cling to life, Gold's first breath in a hundred years is cut short. Once again he rises as Solmon Grundy, confused and trapped by the lights of Gotham. For a week, Grundy wreaks havoc across the city, only to seek refuge in the sewers on a Saturday night, where he faces the wrath of a Killer!

Flash: Rebirth #1 (June 2009)
"Lightning Strikes Twice" Johns/Van Sciver

Once, he made the supreme sacrifice to save the multiverse from annihilation at the hands of the Anti-Monitor. Barry Allen, the second hero to call himself The Flash, was the fastest man alive. So fast that he actually managed to outrun death itself, to return when the Earth needed him the most during a moment of final crisis!

When the evil New Gods walked the Earth reborn as men, it was the powers of those in tune with the speed force that could undermine the endless reach of Libra's Society and Darkseid, evading their plague of the Anti-Life Equation. Running alongside his predecessor and junior, Jay Garrick and Wally West, the returned Flash was able to hatch a plot to direct death toward Darkseid during a fated confrontation!

With the world restored from the horrors of that day that evil won; Barry Allen finds himself effectively resurrected in a world he had long since left behind. Reunited with his loved ones and friends, Allen takes on a cursed sense of forboding as elements of his past, present, and future reach out to haunt him. With forces conspiring behind the scenes, the Flash must run again to make use of the borrowed time he feels he's living on, even at the cost of alienating his friends.

This man out of time may have escaped death, but when the sinister speed cultist called Savitar uses Barry Allen to piggyback his way out of his prison in the Speed Force, the Flash may yet discover that death is closer than he thinks.

Friday, June 26, 2009


New Avengers #54 When: August 2009
Why: Brian Bendis How: Billy Tan

The Story So Far...
For decades, Dr. Stephen Strange shouldered the weight of burden that comes with receiving the mystic charge of the Sorcerer Supreme. As the destined master of magicks, he wielded his power to protect the delicate balance between good and evil as best he could, but when the Hulk returned from exile in space to wage war on Earth, Dr. Strange felt forced to tap into dark magic to combat the threat. It was decisions such as these that deemed him no longer worthy to protect the mortal plane as Sorcerer Supreme.

Dedicated as ever to the pursuit of good, Dr. Strange seeks out would-be successors in the hope of curtailing sinister forces who would seize the opportunity of his forced retirement, and prepare his replacement for the trials ahead. The Hood -- self-proclaimed "Kingpin of Super villains" -- emerges as his most active competitor on the side of evil, but battle does not influence the course of the sacred chain of succession.

Scanning the globe of it's mystic powers, the Eye of Agomotto finds a fitting successor in New Orleans. Thus, Dr. Strange -- joined by his former teammates in the underground Secret Avengers -- enters into a race against The Hood to ensure the power is inherited by the one intended, and not Dormammu, who is the powerful daemon with a claim to The Hood's soul.

Reaching out from his prison in the Dark Dimension from whence he came, Dormammu uses The Hood as a vessel for his own influence. It is a partnership that has allowed him to breach our plane and engage Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, in combat in the streets of New Orleans. Though a significant occult power in his own right, it is not Hellstrom that the Eye of Agomotto has chosen.

Jericho Drumm, known to the occult world as the Haitian houngan, Brother Voodoo, is the new Sorcerer Supreme. When fully realised, his powers will be sufficient enough to protect the Earth from the darkest evils of all the realms, but first he must survive the battle he is about to enter!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Dormammu 7 (Omnipotent)
Intelligence: Dormammu 6 (Genius)
Speed: Ms. Marvel 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Dormammu 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Dormammu 7 (Cosmic)

- The Secret Avengers are: Captain America, Spider-man, Ms. Marvel, Ronin, Mockingbird, Spider-Woman, Wolverine, & Luke Cage, with; Dr. Strange, Son of Satan, and Brother Voodoo.

Confronted with a government intent on pitting him against the reluctant and unwilling of his fellow heroes, Captain America instead threw his training and leadership against SHIELD and the US Government, to instead lead a resistance against their mandatory Superhero Registration Act. These Secret Avengers emerge to continue to fight the good fight, whilst protecting those who have pledged their lives to protecting the innocent. Among the most prominent and first to join the Captain's cause were; Hercules, Goliath, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Falcon, Cloak, Dagger, and Cable.

Captain America's surrender to Tony Stark ended the superhero Civil War, and his subsequent assassination galvanized the efforts of the underground team allowed leniency by the guilty powers-that-be. Thus, these Secret Avengers continue to honor their leader, dedicated to the same justice he always sought.

- A career thief; Parker Robbins' lifetime ambition was to become a super-villain capable of battling the likes of Daredevil and Electro, who he witnessed fighting as a child. Whilst robbing a warehouse said to contain unspecified treasures, Parker gained his opportunity upon uncovering a mystically charged set of boots and cloak said to house the demon, Nistanti. Donning the red cloak granted him powers of transmutation, levitation, invisibility, and lethal bolts of energy.

As The Hood, Robbins continues to carry his weapons of choice, two hand pistols, whilst backing himself with the powers of a demon later revealed to be the dark lord of magic, Dormammu. With his master's help and inspiration of Wilson Fisk -- the Kingpin of crime his father had worked with -- Robbins begins a path to form a unified network of super powered criminals. As Kingpin of Super-Villains, he begins an association with a secret Cabal that creates a partnership with Director of HAMMER to whom he would supply hired muscle, Norman Osborn, and also brings him league with the likes of Dr. Doom and Loki.

The dread Dormammu is an ancient mystic warlord that travelled to the Dark Dimension and conquered it. His interests in other domains brought him into conflict with Earth's first Sorcerer Supreme, Agamotto, and began a destined feud with the denizens of Earth that would stretch to his most bitter arch-rivalry with Agamotto's modern counterpart, The Ancient One, and his disciple, Dr. Strange.

Bound mystically to remain confined to the Dark Dimension, Dormammu is forced to manipulate his foes through minions such as Stephen Strange's rival, Baron Mordo. His becomes an obsession of loopholes, constantly bringing him into distant battles with other heroes from Earth, such as Dr. Strange's fellow Defenders; Thor, Norse God of thunder; and even Spider-man.

Math: Avengers (Ttl) Hood/Dormammu (Avg) Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
Stirred by the battle already waging outside his window, Brother Voodoo has only moments to come to terms with the download of information offered by the Eye of Agamotto. He has been chosen -- and now bares both the gift and curse of being Earth's Sorcerer Supreme. Now, a baptism of fire against The Hood who has become a vessel for Dormammu to walk the Earth.

With Dr. Strange bringing up the rear, and his houngan brother's spirit advising him, Brother Voodoo charges into battle with the demon! It is an offensive-defense that sends Dormammu reeling with a strike from the Staff of Legba.

A friendly neighbourhood shower of weblines precede the dramatic re-entry of the Avengers into the fray! Brother Voodoo gazes upon the assembly while Captain America throws his mighty shield to earn an exacerbated grunt from the human-demon hybrid.

Ronin keeps The Hood's co-conspirator, Madame Masque, out of the battle, while Ms. Marvel follows up on Cap's hit with a headlock that gives her leverage to drive Dormammu's giant flaming influence face-first into the street! The blow sets up a string of teamwork which includes Dr. Strange and Son of Satan hatching a magic collaboration to produce an end-game.

Meanwhile, Wolverine gets a shot at a little revenge for a previous encounter with The Hood, slashing his unbreakable adamantium claws through a mystically-protected gut in a burst of flames. It's a two-prong attack, complimented by a stinger blast to the mandible by Spider-Woman!

Dormammu reacts fast, slamming his fists down, but the heroes are fast and agile enough to evade the strike. Captain America again uses the shield to inflict a blow, while Spider-man and Mockingbird do their best to contribute with webs and a dropkick, respectively. Despite their teamwork, Dormammu is able to make a charge for the Eye of Agamotto hung around Brother Voodoo's neck.

Luke Cage runs interference, tackling the rampaging demon mere meters from Voodoo. Cage is swiftly manhandled as the flesh of The Hood melts away, signifying the extent of the crossing of Dormammu into our dimensional plane.

The Avengers are batted aside by the increasingly powerful Dormammu as he attempts again to obtain the mystic artifact tied to the Sorcerer Supreme. The former barer, Dr. Strange, calls upon his still impressive mystic arsenal to defend Brother Voodoo, however, unleashing a spell to expose Dormammu!

The powerful spell forces Dormammu into Daimon Hellstrom's completed trap!
As the demonlord lunges once again toward the Eye, he is held in bondage by Hellstrom's hellacious incantation. Dormammu's only consolation is to gaze upon his mortal foe, Dr. Stephen Strange, and revel in his demotion from the coveted role of Sorcerer Supreme.

Strange's replacement proves his worth by rendering both the Doctor and Son of Satan redundant in exorcising Dormammu from the body of Parker Robbins [aka; The Hood]. The esoteric incantation surprises even Hellstrom as it rips Dormammu's presence from this plane of existance, leaving a powerless Hood smouldering and naked in the street. He joins his lover, Madame Masque, in Spidey web-couture and the custody of the Avengers.

The Hammer...
You only need to go back fifteen or twenty years ago to remember a time when Dormammu was an A-list villain. He probably didn't have the presence to be a Dr. Doom, but he was a Galactus grade magic villain. Alas, it's an unauspicious debut as his internship of The Hood comes to an end via the efforts of Brother Voodoo, Dr. Strange, Son of Satan, and the Secret Avengers!

For you Infinite Wars stathounds, I'm playing it tough this time around and counting the Avengers' efforts as an assist stat. For those of you reading the site for the first time -- welcome! Here on The Comic Book Fight Club we like to look at superhero fights, discuss the comics and fiction, and just generally wallow in the pop culture fun time of comic books! Part of that includes a statistical tally of the fights reviewed.

At first glance, this looks like an unexpected truncation of The Hood's reign as Kingpin of Supervillains! In the Dark Reign landscape of the Marvel Universe, the demonically powered villain was second only to Norman Osborn in importance to the overarching clandestine machinations of evil. However, here, in the issue that finally reveals the new choice for Sorcerer Supreme, we seemingly see The Hood stripped of his powers and consequently taken out of the game!

I want to reflect on that last sentence for a second, just because it so succinctly summarizes the fact that Brian Bendis, seasoned writer of New Avengers since it's inception, has actually been cramming each issue full of content!

In the past it's been very easy to be critical of the writing, particularly on New Avengers, which barely began to find grounding before it was thrown into a free fall as a result of the Civil War rift. Here in the fifties, it feels like Bendis has finally delivered the book it was always meant to be, and it is quite glorious!

It's also been a rewarding piece of Marvel's attempts to circumvent the now traditional annual 'event' series, to instead spread the consequences of a high concept tale across multiple books. In a way, this sense of involving continuity has been a staple of the DC books for the past few years, but by doing away with any anchoring mini-series, Marvel have opened them up to a unique approach.

After the embrassments of House of M and Secret Invasion, I would've argued Marvel should never let Bendis get anywhere near a directorial position ever again. Yet -- with the personalized structure of multiple titles, the writer has found a vehicle more suited to his slow style. Dark Reign has found it's way into books as unlikely as Marvel Zombies, but the meat of the branding has been shared between books like Dark Avengers, New Avengers, and Secret Warriors, allowing for a more relaxed approach to a story that would traditionally have brought a lot of these events into a single compressed space. The Civil War mini-series comes to mind as a series that was, while satisfying as an event book, a prime example of the delineation of the story. Likewise, the Dark Reign banner hasn't strangled the life out of on-going series in the way Civil War completely derailed New Avengers!

Having spent several months thinking Dark Reign was going to be a brief storyarc about Strange's changing of the guard, it's a thrill to finally get a clear picture of the concept. And while a big part of me regrets the fact that Dr. Strange hasn't played much more than bit-roles in recent years, it's fun seeing Brother Voodoo get some of the credit he never quite got after Fred Hembeck had some fun.

Like Captain America's death; it's difficult to think of Dr. Strange's demotion in any kind of lasting terms. As fine and dandy as it would be to have Voodoo hold the mantle for the forseeable future, he probably isn't the character first-in-line for that kind of unmotivated upgrade.
With all the foreboding going on at the end of this issue of New Avengers (via Daimon Hellstrom), it seems pretty likely Bro' Voodoo's being set up for a fall of spectacular proportions. The kind of fall that kicks off a massive Marvel magic event in 2010/2011, and forces him to sacrifice himself in a blaze of glory, whilst tossing Doc Strange the keys to the kingdom on the way out.

What ever the goal, it's kinda nice to see these characters getting warmed up again! Even more pleasing is the fact that Bendis -- who doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to paying attention to stories not on his desk -- made a pretty good meal of them, too! You get a sense that the Marvel staff of thirty-to-forty-somethings are making use of the rest of the reading the did during the seventies, beyond obvious revivals of characters like Spider-Woman, and Power Man. It seems like you can barely turn a corner without bumping in to a Werewolf by Night or Shang-Chi solicitation, these days!

Thanks to Dark Reign, New Avengers has really gotten a new lease on life, and for perhaps the first time in it's run, is doing what it can do best. The Avengers are plugged in to the centre of the Marvel Universe and their actions have suddenly taken on the kind of gravitas that was teased at the end of 2007.

Billy Tan's pencils do a pretty good job delivering on the action in an issue that lives up to all your expectations of team-based superheroics. The hero of this issue might be Justin Ponsor, however, who works well the primary colours of some of the Avengers' costumes, balanced with the night time backdrop and glowing embers of Dormammu. Ponsor delivers the classic excellence you would expect of a Marvel colourist, with just the right flourish of CG to compliment some of the glowing far-out action and spellcasting.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6

New Avengers appears monthly from Marvel Comics featuring an all-star line-up of characters that includes; Spider-man, Wolverine, and Captain America! You can find more of those characters' exploits and links to collections of the tales via the Infinite Wars Secret Archive and Online Gift Shoppe! By using purchase links provided on the site, (like those to the right), you help sponsor future entries in The Comic Book Fight Club. You can also benefit from the range of titles and prices made available by shopping with and still contribute even when buying other items, provided you go through us!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mountain Dew® is proud to introduce Game Fuel:
Two limited-time-only flavors inspired by the
hit video game World of Warcraft.

Choose Your Side with Alliance Blue, or Horde Red. Only from Mountain Dew® Game Fuel™, get a free 14-day-trial of World of Warcraft, or an in-game battlebot pet.
You can probably find complete shipping list updates on most major comics sites. Consider this an opportunity to either do all your info-shopping in the one place, or get a speculative perspective on what might be worth checking out. These are untested reads. Secret Wars on Infinite Earths can offer no guarantee or endorsement of quality. These are simply titles that may be of potential interest. Some items may ship late.

The Infinite Wars now has a gift shop!
Now you'll find Amazon purchase links to hardcovers, trade paperbacks, and other collections, not only on regular entries -- but also new releases at the bottom of the Shipping List, and now a whole catalogue of potential purchases via the Infinite Wars: Amazonian Gift Shop. [Men are also welcome!] By shopping with Amazon via our purchase links, you not only find yourself a great deal, but also sponsor future entries on the Infinite Wars.

Advertise here! Contact for more!

The Independents...

MAR094405 2000 AD #1637 $4.50
APR090944 ATOMIKA #8 (OF 12) (RES) $2.99
FEB092417 DYNAMO 5 #22 $3.50
SEP080033 END LEAGUE #8 $2.99
APR090410 FUSION #2 (OF 3) $2.99
APR090387 LILLIM #4 (OF 5) $2.99

The Corporates...
APR090489 AVENGERS INVADERS #12 (OF 12) $2.99
APR090455 DARK AVENGERS #6 DKR $3.99
APR090469 DARK REIGN ZODIAC #1 (OF 3) DKR $3.99
APR090499 IMMORTAL IRON FIST #27 $3.99
APR090196 SPIRIT #30 $2.99
APR090251 STARCRAFT #2 $2.99
APR090471 THUNDERBOLTS #133 DKR $2.99
APR090202 WONDER WOMAN #33 $2.99
APR090535 X-FORCE #16 XMW $2.99

The Spotlight...
After being abandoned, it looks like the Shadow Initiative is about to be embraced by the corrupted regime of Norman Osborn and his Dark Reign! I guess when you're as cuckoo for coco puffs as Osborn you can never quite have enough private assassination squads, and in Taskmaster he gets a fine mercenary leader to add to his squad of Dark Avengers, Thunderbolts, and Hood underlings! It's another interesting beat for a book that's managed to walk that fine line between being directly connected to the on-going escapades of the Marvel Universe, and being very much it's own comic full of great characters.

- APR090494 DAREDEVIL #119 $2.99
On his way out, Ed Brubaker is really restoring Daredevil to the prominence of his entry as Return of the King ramps up toward it's big conclusion! It's tough to not look forward to a fresh influence on the character who undeniably lost some of his lustre under the last creative team(s), but there's enough here to really savor what this regime has been able to do. It looks like Andy Diggle will be bringing Daredevil back into the Marvel Universe, which is something that will no doubt garner resentment from some readers, but has the potential to really shake off the dust and freshen up this much loved character. He's been away cornered-off from the Marvel Universe for the bulk of the decade, so there's a lot of fertile ground there for the gradual intrusion of Dark Reign and the return of history [Hawkeye].

- APR090152 DETECTIVE COMICS #854 $3.99
I can't actually remember the last time Batman wasn't a regular in Detective Comics, but I'm all for the change! Detective continues the Reborn revamp with a striking redefinition of one of DC's longest running titles, replacing the Dark Knight detective with his female equivalent - Batwoman. Those of you trained on the mainstream will remember Batwoman as the much hyped debuting character from 52, who went on to do very little more than be publicized for being gay. The mistakes of the past will presumably be resolved as writer/creator, Greg Rucka, gets the opportunity to stretch the Batwoman's wings in her first starring solo-series. Unsurprisingly, The Question (Renee Montoya) will also return alongside her ally in the Co-Feature that finally returns back-up material to Detective Comics! Shame about the price, but considering the stunning visuals of JH Williams, I'll forgive it. Seriously, you could buy this thing for the art alone -- something I'm not especially prone to considering!

- APR090158 GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #1 $2.99
The cancellation of Catwoman earlier in the year was an absolute disappointment, but a decision that felt like it were part of a bigger picture. I'd like to think Gotham City Sirens was always part of the plan, delivering the continuation of Catwoman's adventures as told in the post-RIP interim in Batman and Detective Comics. Sirens, just like those tales, were handled by fan-favourite writer Paul Dini, who'll reunite with Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn, to produce a series sure to set fans of Batman: The Animated Series atingle with anticipation! I'd be lying if I said I wasn't feeling a little bit cynical, particularly with the gratuitous penchant for ass shots cover artist Guillem March has shown, but the excitement begun with Batman & Robin has permeated through the diversity of the Reborn line-up.

- APR090183 GREEN LANTERN #42 $2.99
We're just a month away from the big event! Blackest Night is right around the corner, but before we have desert, we've got to eat our greens. Or at least, that's the case for Larfleeze -- possessor of the orange light of avarice! The introduction of the spectrum has gotten a little cramped as Geoff Johns fills the space between the GL #25 2007 teaser and the 2009 event, but we've got the information we need to move forward. Hard to ignore the theory that Hal Jordan will save the day in BN with a combination of the powers of light, but it's just a little too obvious for my liking.
Hey, Larfleeze wants everything!Maybe he's the key!

- APR090457 NEW AVENGERS #54 DKR $3.99
For years Brother Voodoo was a bit of an in-joke amongst online punters and fans of Fred Hembeck, but lo and behold, Marvel are finally going to make good on what those fans want! Since hitting fifty issues it really feels like Brian Bendis has just finally started to deliver on the Avengers comic he was always supposed to be writing. Dark Reign weighs heavily on the title, but unlike distracted issues based on Civil War and other stories, this is a book that is all about it's own story. Dr. Strange, Son of Satan, and Dormammu are an exciting list of guest stars as the Secret Avengers clash with The Hood to prevent the forces of evil taking possession of the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme -- destined to be Brother Voodoo's!


Know Your Trade...

Monday, June 22, 2009

World's Most Wanted Part 7:
The Shape of the World These Days (Marvel)

Where: Invincible Iron Man #14 When: August 2009
Why: Matt Fraction How: Salvador Larroca

Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Iron Man 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Iron Man 2 (Average)
Fighting: Crimson Dynamo 4 (Trained)
Energy: Draw 5 (Lasers)

Math: Iron Man
Ranking: Iron Man (#3)

At the beginning of this year's season, I predicted a quiet year for Iron Man, and I suppose in a manner of speaking, that's what it's been. 2006 put the shellhead at the forefront of comics when he led, and technically won, the Marvel Civil War. The event - which pitted Iron Man and Captain America against each other as ideological figureheads of their opinions on superhero consignment - thrust Iron Man into the role of Director of SHIELD, and consequently, positioned him to be at the centre of the Marvel Universe.

Opinions of the character rendered Iron Man as one of reader's most reviled and successful "villains" in comics. Yet, as you might imagine, sympathies were turned in time for a major motion picture that established the Iron Man brand as a force to be reckoned with in the mainstream. The comics house of cards came tumbling down, however, with Secret Invasion, which allowed then-Director of the Commission on Superhuman Activities, Norman Osborn, to steal the throne.

World's Most Wanted positions Tony Stark on the run, as a fugitive from the new regime that has branded him a coward and traitor to America. Contrary to those accusations, Stark's as dedicated to heroism as ever, and he's determined to destroy all the data and technology he accumulated during his time as Director of SHIELD to prevent Norman Osborn getting his evil hands on it. For a man merged with machine, this means even destroying chunks of his own mind -- uh oh!

Yes! The situation does look grim for Tony Stark, but with a sequel to the massively successful 2008 film slated for release next year, you can't shake the feeling that current plotlines all point toward a restoration of Iron Man as beloved member of the good guys in time for the sequel.

Okay. Maybe they didn't hit the reset button for the last film, when it would arguably have been more important to do so, but Civil War had bubbled into the background by 2008, and anyone who looked in on the shellhead could've easily mistaken him for the beloved hero he always was (as opposed to a jezebel). So maybe it's at least plausible that the shifting tectonic plates of influence on the Marvel Universe might be conspiring for a reset in time for the sequel.

Let's be honest -- it isn't just cross-promotion that's pointing in the direction of a new normality in the Marvel Universe. As much fun as Dark Reign has been as a high concept exercise, it almost seems designed specifically to deconstruct the validity of well argued policy initiated by Civil War. Essentially; Dark Reign is an extention of the tale, using the circumstances that allowed Tony Stark to assume the level of control he did in response to disaster, as a stepping stone toward a more explicit tale of evil exploitation. Without Stark, we wouldn't have Osborn.

Trends in superhero comics seem to be retreating from the hard-choice post-9/11 pseudo-politics of police states and government paranoia. For the first time in years, you can almost imagine a reunion of Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, as the save-the-day butt kickers in a go-for-it-boys moment of fist pumping justice as the classic Avengers unite to take down Osborn and his lackeys!

It's a fun thought, even if it seems like such a shame to interrupt the urban rythmn the Secret Avengers have finally gotten into, in New Avengers. Hey! I guess it's wouldn't be the first time there've been two official Avengers teams in the books! I think I'm getting a little bit distracted by what ifs now, though.

Here in the present; Tony Stark continues his journey across the world in retro armor. I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a kick out of seeing the classic look, but it's starting to look like it'll come at a price...

I realise it's a little ironic, given that I've just spent a lot of time speaking pretty positively about undoing the last few years worth of storylines, but I'm really not fond of the prospect of Iron Man being stripped of his Extremis upgrades from the Warren Ellis story of the same name, from 2006. It's got the same bad taste and lack of creative vision that the undoing of Grant Morrison's New X-Men had, and it feels like it's the kind of ham-fisted direction we've seen Marvel undertake too many times under the current regime.

Iron Man is a technological hero for a technological age.

I got quite excited by the prospect of previews that showed Iron Man travelling to Russia where he would lock horns with the Crimson Dynamo. Yet, as much as I have an affection for those antiquated iconographies, Iron Man has progressed beyond them. The technology available to the hero needs to respond in kind.

Extremis errs on the side of science-fiction, but dances creatively enough to balance the necessity for real-world technological touchstones, with a superhero possessing that which is beyond normal (human) means. I really do hope I'm wrong about the possibility of Iron Man losing that part of the canon as a result of World's Most Wanted's story. It would be a very negative legacy to a tale that otherwise feels a bit like a play right now, reenacting the moments before Dark Reign falls, rather than being the story of the build-up.

To the matter of this week's quick fix fight -- Iron Man finds himself under rocket fire as he flies through the snow-filled skies over Arkhangelsk, Russia.

The retro armor cobbled together over days of hopping through tech-stations does an admirable job of out-flying the missiles, but is simply unable to compete with several-to-one. After out maneuvering a few exploding shells, the golden (and red) Avenger is caught in the blastwave of one explosion, only to catch the near full brunt of another.

The Crimson Dynamo (Dmitri Bukharin) is quick to arrive on the scene, swatting the grounded Iron Man at staggering speeds, before looming over him like a metallic red hulk. Believing this enfeebled Iron Man to be a rogue impostor, the Dynamo clutches his armored opponent and wrenches the helmet free. Beneath he finds an almost unrecognisable man, whose quest has been one of self-destruction, as much about deleting the data he accumulated as Director of SHIELD, as it is about deleting himself.

Convinced, Bukharin embraces the man he had come to count as an ally.
This isn't the first Crimson Dynamo to wear the red, or the first to be befriended by Tony Stark in the modern post-Cold War age [ie; Valentin Shatalov]. Bukharin offers to help the embattled Stark, later even denying Norman Osborn requests to enter Russian quarters in an effort to retrieve his fugitive foe.

As a piece of the Dark Reign puzzle, so far Invincible Iron Man feels reasonably disposable. This is connective tissue to the past, and presumably at some point, the future. For me, the attraction has been the guest characters more than the plot going on around them. I actually quite like that everything about Iron Man feels very insular, right after he spent several years appearing in almost every Marvel title. It's a fun reversal of roles and a great way to capture the Iron Man story with gravitas. At the same time, it's disconnection and indulgence in internal plotlines just doesn't thrill me the way other Dark Reign series have.

Like I said earlier, if there's a return to glory for Iron Man and his resurrected fellows, then this just feels all the more like killing time. I skipped the issue between this and #12. If there was anything of vital importance to miss, I certainly didn't notice it. These days that's the mark of a "friendly" good writer, but in this case, it feels like testimony against a by-the-numbers book.

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 4
Winner: Crimson Dynamo

Invincible Iron Man is currently available monthly from Marvel Comics! You can pre-order the World's Most Wanted trade collection, and many others, from Amazon! By using purchase links provided on the site, you help sponsor future techno-entries on the Infinite Wars! You'll find more stories like this in the Infinite Wars Gift Shoppe, including plenty of Iron Man, and other collections containing issues reviewed in the Secret Archives!